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Barrett’s Esophagus

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Barrett’s esophagus is a serious complication of gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). With this disorder, stomach acid damages the esophageal lining and causes it to become similar to the lining of the intestine.

Approximately 15 percent of those with chronic GERD symptoms go on to develop Barrett’s esophagus.

Diagnosing Barrett’s Esophagus

Experts aren’t sure of the exact cause of this rare disease. Patients may have symptoms like those of GERD, but Barrett’s esophagus doesn’t have any specific symptoms of its own.

People with Barrett’s esophagus have an increased risk of developing esophageal adenocarcinoma — a serious, potentially fatal esophageal cancer.

Treating Barrett’s Esophagus

Because each person can have widely different presentations of the disease, UPMC thoracic specialists and surgeons provide a highly individualized treatment approach.

Surgeons use both open and newer, minimally invasive surgical techniques in treating Barrett’s esophagus.

The various surgical treatment options for people with Barrett’s esophagus include:

  • Endoscopic mucosal resection and other endoscopic techniques — removing the area of Barrett's mucosa by passing an endoscope through the mouth and into the esophagus.
  • Mucosal ablative therapies — treating the abnormal Barrett's mucosa with radiofrequency waves or by freezing removal (cryoablation).
  • Esophagectomy — removing the esophagus and possible cancerous cells.